The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Harmony & Spirituality Practice Cultivating “Wa”


Many years ago, I was invited to attend a breakfast fund raising event at the Bel Air Hotel in West Los Angeles. Ted Turner was attempting to squeeze donations from a room full of Hollywood moguls. The private dining room was filled with sunlight, and I remember sitting there, bored, zoned out and forking segments of my eggs Benedict around, when Turner’s Savannah chain gang growl poked a hole in my reverie: “I tell you, it’s spiritual,” he exclaimed. “And you know how I know it’s spiritual? Because I paid cash money for it.”

To this day, I have no idea what “it” was. But Turner’s logic—his working definition of “spiritual”—made me smile and stuck with me to this day. And while I’d rather steer the long way around when it comes to spiritual matters in general, I have become a devoted fan of harmony, as in feeling at peace. What the Japanese call Wa. Bottom line: I try not to regret anything that has already happened, and not to worry about what might happen. And in a way, I think this has played a role in my coming to terms with prostate cancer.

When discord hobbles me, throws off my vital signs, fogs up my reasoning, I feel it has a definite impact on my immune system. Efforts to counter mindless anxious behavior through breathing and light meditation may help, but in my case, only minimally. Instead, whenever I encounter discord, or more to the point, when I catch myself creating or contributing to the dissonance, I retreat from that discord as fast as I can. This happens in three steps:

First, I catch myself, recognize what’s happening, mark the moment: Blum, you’re doing it!

Second, I apply the brakes, stop what I am doing as best I can. Do whatever it takes to get into reverse and back away. I think of this step as “circuit breaking.”

Third, I substitute different behavior, consciously find a better way to look at what is disturbing my peace and serenity, my wa.

Example: Despite my expectations, my PSA has risen. And I’m suddenly scared s—tless my next Gleason score will have deteriorated from 3 + 3 to 3 + 4, and that I will start feeling pressure to “act,” to begin radical treatment. As a Remedy, I hold a conversation with myself,

Me:  How many years has your cancer been in the seminal vesicle?
Myself: About six.
Me: So six years out of the capsule?
Myself: Yup.
Me:  Is the cancer in your bones?
Myself: No.
Me: Well, how about the lymph system?
Myself: Don’t think so.
Me: So And how old are you?  
Myself: I’ve been around the sun 80 times.
Me: So in 10 years you’ll be 90?
Myself: You might look at it that way.
Me: And your cancer, basically untreated, has been stable for almost a quarter of a century.
Myself: Something like that.
Myself: So given hour history, what kind  of prognosis would you expect for the years to come. . . ?

The Q and A continues until I find myself relaxing, counting my blessings. This sounds like pretty simple-minded stuff. But not getting caught in the quicksand of negative emotions or behavior that is toxic, just staying in the “here and now,” is a spiritual practice that helps maintain Wa. I do my best to stay in the present moment. But when I slip, ASAP after the fact I review what has happened. I replay what happened in my mind with different features, focus on a better way to handle it next time. And some day perhaps I’ll find out what spiritual stuff Ted Turner paid cash money for. And place an order for myself. A baseball team. An ocean going racing yacht. A date  withJane Fonda. CNN. A day at the beach. . .

To each his own kind of Wa.

More to come.

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